ARS Chicago ‘Zabelle’ Chapter Builds ‘Youth Helping Youth’ Mentorship Initiative

Last spring, the Armenian Relief Society (ARS) Chicago “Zabelle” chapter launched a “Youth Helping Youth” initiative to offer young people philanthropic engagement opportunities. That effort is already paying off for the community and its young volunteers.

AYF members packaged 42 boxes of food for Feed My Starving Children
AYF members packaged 42 boxes of food for Feed My Starving Children

What started as a chapter brainstorming session centered on raising funds for ARS Soseh Kindergarten reconstruction in Nagorno-Karabagh (Artsakh/NKR) has grown into a pipeline for young people to connect to the ARS’s founding principles and align with the chapter’s adoption of Catholicos Aram I’s declaration that 2016 is a “Year of Service.”

“With everything that is happening around the world, especially to Armenians in the Middle East, it is important to raise awareness in young people and teach them to be socially conscious,” said chapter chair Arpy Seferian. “Introducing our youth to a humanitarian perspective is a mechanism for incorporating these lessons in their day to day lives.”

Taniel Varoujan Armenian School students answered the ARS’s call to help with Soseh Kindergarten fundraising, raising $550 for the reconstruction project, but driven by something bigger than a monetary goal; they were inspired to help students like them rebuild a school for their education and safety in an unstable area of Nagorno Karabagh.

“In the United States, our children are blessed with safety and opportunity,” noted ARS “Zabelle” chapter co-chair Nairee Hagopian. “It’s important for the ARS ‘Zabelle’ chapter to educate the youth on the adversities kids their age face while living in impoverished and unsafe areas.

A scene from the Feed My Starving Children project
A scene from the Feed My Starving Children project

“Whether the need is local or thousands of miles away, the efforts that our youth will put forth in these projects will make a difference,” she added. “The gift of giving and these acts of kindness will not only enrich the life of the recipient but will also become equally rewarding to the volunteer.”

“Speaking as a mother, I know that these programs will build character in our community’s young people and instill ARS values of humanitarianism,” said ARS “Zabelle” chapter executive member Arpik Soulakian. “It’s never too early to teach children these principles so that they perpetuate a life-long commitment to charity.”

Through the “Youth Helping Youth” program, the ARS “Zabelle” chapter is reinforcing the rewarding experience of being a volunteer; providing a chance for young people to help eliminate social problems; and helping make a difference in the lives of youth in the U.S. and around the world, focusing on Armenia, Nagorno Kharabagh, and other Armenian communities.

So far, the ARS “Zabelle” chapter has worked with the Chicago Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) “Ararat” Senior and Junior chapters and the Taniel Varoujan Armenian School, hosting two presentations on philanthropy, including the ARS’s history and projects.

Some of the AYF volunteers from the Feed My Starving Children project
Some of the AYF volunteers from the Feed My Starving Children project

The chapter’s most recent mentoring effort focused on volunteerism.

On August 17, 18 AYF members packaged 42 boxes of food for Feed My Starving Children, a faith-based organization “committed to feeding God’s children and to eliminate starvation in children throughout the world.” With pop music playing in the background, volunteers worked assembly line style at 10 stations, filling bags with rice and other dehydrated ingredients for over 9,000 meals.

Chicago AYF “Ararat” junior chapter member Lauren Billeh offered a blessing for the food and volunteers, praying for the food’s secure delivery and safe travels home for all volunteers.

“For our chapter as a whole, it was a rewarding experience to help people outside of the Armenian community and to see how much everyone enjoyed it,” said Chicago AYF “Ararat” senior chapter “We’re grateful to the ARS and their ‘Youth Helping Youth’ initiative for presenting the AYF with the opportunity to experience helping others through humanitarian aid work,” added Chicago AYF “Ararat” Chapter President Daron Bedian. “We had a great time packaging meals for starving children and learned a lot about how hard work and compassion can help us grow as people. A big thank you to the ARS members who came along to show our juniors that community service is a lifelong endeavor that is worth investing in.”

ARS chapters interested in starting a “Youth Helping Youth” program can contact the chapter at To learn more about the ARS visit To learn more about Feed My Starving Children visit



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Guest Contributor

Guest contributions to the Armenian Weekly are informative articles or press releases written and submitted by members of the community.

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